Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamp

I am thrilled to be on the staff of Steve Kaufman's Acoustic Kamps! I will be teaching for two weeks this June. (And celebrating my birthday during that time as well!) Every summer, this award winning and all-inclusive music Kamp is held at Maryville College in the foothills of the great Smoky Mountains. Make this year YOUR year to get out and pick! I will be teaching ultra beginners of all instruments and am so excited to get you playing with others!

Old Time and Traditional Week is June 12-18 Bluegrass Week is June 19-25
Check it out at www.Flatpik.com
The instruments taught during Old Time Week are Old Time Fiddle, Old Time Mandolin, Hammered Dulcimer, Old Time Banjo, Mountain Singing, Flatpicking, Rhythm Guitar, Celtic Guitar, Irish Fiddle, Fingerpicking and Mountain Dulcimer.
Bluegrass Week: Flatpicking, Bluegrass Banjo, Mandolin, Songwriting, Swing Rhythm Guitar, Dobro™, Bluegrass Fiddle, Bass, Ukulele, Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar and Bluegrass Vocals.
I am so glad to be a part of Kamp this year, and I hope to see you and your friends at SKAK in June.
If you have any questions or concerns, you can send a direct email to steve@flatpik.com.



Monday, January 24, 2022

Chris' 2022 Private Lesson Schedule


Chris will not be teaching private lessons on the following dates in 2022:

 February 3, 14, 15, 16, 17

March 21, 22, 23, 24 

April 25, 26, 27, 28

May 23, 24, 25, 26

June 13, 14, 15, 16, 20, 21, 22, 23

July 18, 19, 20, 21

August 1, 2, 3, 4

September 5, 6, 7, 8

October 10, 11, 12, 13

November 21, 22, 23, 24

December 22, 26, 27, 28, 29

January 2023: 2, 3

Friday, December 31, 2021

Renting Instruments: Cost Effective?

Have you ever considered renting to own a musical instrument?  Worried your kids won't stick with it and you'll be stuck with an expensive instrument?  Think that it's cheaper to rent?  You might be surprised at the answer!  Since the most commonly rented instruments are from the violin family or band instruments, this short blog is directed towards those two categories of instruments.

As a former music teacher (I taught band and choir in the private school sector for almost 10 years), most of my students never rented a musical instrument for band.  I spent the summers helping parents look for instruments and then fixing them up.  Many of my students would not have been in band otherwise.  The cost of the private school, plus the cost of a musical instrument was just too much, especially for larger families.  Most instruments cost my students $50-$100, and these were the name brands all band directors look for:  Bundy, Selmer, Vito, Conn, Blessing, Yamaha, etc.

When I opened The Bluegrass Shack, I was determined to never rent musical instruments.  It simply is not a cost effective way to own a student level musical instrument.  For those that are local and don't need shipping, we have violin outfits starting out at $125 that include the instrument, case & bow -- and a professional setup!  For a violin or viola, that setup will cost you at least $100 at most violin shops, and that is what makes the difference between something that is easy to play, and something that is hard or impossible to play.  Not to mention an improperly setup stringed instrument will many times not play in tune even if it is in tune.  The Bluegrass Shack also has a 100% trade in policy for all violins/fiddles.  That allows you to upgrade at any point without losing any of your investment.

We also offer a small selection of used and new band instruments starting at around $100.  We don't have the trade-in policy on these instruments, but for a fraction of the cost of renting to own, you can own your instrument.  

If your child decides not to play anymore, you won't be out near as much as you would be if you were renting, plus you can sell the instrument and recoup all or most of what you paid for it!  Don't want the hassle of selling?  Give it away!  Donate it to the school or to another child!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

DIY Ukulele Kit!

 Just in time for Christmas or really for any time you want to try your hand at making a musical instrument!  This do-it-yourself soprano ukulele kit is perfect for first timers, and it is only $35!  I have a limited number of these left for purchase, but you can pick yours up now until I run out!  

Everything you need to make your own ukulele is included, though there are a few additions you might want to consider.  What's included?  All the parts, including strings and picks, and even some gloves, sandpaper block, glue, screwdriver, tuning machines, and instructions.  What additions do I suggest?  First off, I have included my own set of revised/additional instructions to go along with the ones that are included because we all know how poorly these things are written by the company.  I also suggest the yellow wood glue (it comes with white), stain instead of the colored paints, some additional fine sandpaper, and some heavy duty rubber bands and/or small clamps.  



How long does it take to build one of these?  How difficult is it?  Well, it's really not all that hard to put it together.  A child will need some help and supervision, but a teenager may only need help with clamping and possibly following some of the directions.  Most adults shouldn't have much of a problem putting this together.  It does take a couple of days to complete, though, because you will have to let the glue dry and set, and you will have to let whatever finish you use (stain or paint) dry before finishing everything up.  It also depends on how fancy you get.  If you just stain it, that won't take you long at all!

Here are some pictures of the one I made.  I stained mine, then spent at least a week painting designs on the front and back.  I used acrylic paints I bought from Walmart.  I used a clear lacquer spray to protect it all when I was done with painting.  I upgraded the tuners because I like the look of closed gear tuners and black buttons over the open gear tuners with white buttons that are included with the kit.  The included tuners work just fine -- it was a cosmetic thing to me.  I also modified the bridge and saddle after I discovered that the ukulele didn't intonate properly.  That is fixed with the additional instructions I wrote that are included with every kit.  You won't have to modify yours if you follow those directions.  Intonation won't be perfect on these, but it is pretty good if you follow the directions.




If you need it shipped, there will be a shipping charge added to your purchase. And one other note, these come in a pink unicorn box.  Sorry about that!  They aren't just for females, but I doubt boys will be as excited about the box as girls.  You may want to repackage!

Monday, January 25, 2021

Chris' 2021 Private Lesson Schedule

 Chris will not be teaching private lessons on the following dates:

 February 8, 9, 10, 11                                

March 1, 2, 3, 4                                                           

April 5, 6, 7, 8                                                              

May 10, 11, 12, 13                                                      

June 14, 15, 16, 17                                                      

July 5, 6, 7, 8, 15                                                               

 August 9, 10, 11, 12, 16, 17, 18, 19, 23, 24, 25, 26

September 13, 14, 15, 16

October 18, 19, 20, 21

November 22, 23, 24, 25

December 22, 23, 24, 27, 28, 29, 30

January 2022: 3, 4

It is important that you understand your lesson time is reserved for you.  If you are unable to make a lesson, please me know as soon as possible.  If you miss a lesson, you will be expected to pay for that lesson unless you are sick or have a true emergency.  If you are missing a lesson because of a birthday party, date, prom, school event, vacation, etc., you will be expected to pay for the missed lesson(s). This has always been store policy, but it has not always been strictly enforced.  If you have frequent emergencies or illnesses, we can discuss what the best solution would be.  Sometimes I am able to schedule make-up lessons, in which case you would not have to pay for the missed lesson.


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Making a Fiddle - Day 9

I am making a Strad model, so I had to mark all the blocks where the lining needs to go. This includes depth and length. A razor blade and a small hammer are used to make the initial cuts into the blocks.


I used a very small chisel to clean up the tunnels in the blocks where the lining will go.



Using a super flexible ruler, I measured the distance in between the cuts in the blocks so I would know how long to cut the lining.



After bending the lining, I had to make sure each piece fit snugly into the "tunnels" and against the ribs.


The linings are made from spruce. They have to be bent to fit the curvature of the ribs and also into the blocks. Each piece of lining has to be dipped into water and then bent on the bending iron. I used a small block of wood to help bend the lining pieces.


I needed about 30 clothespins to clamp the lining to the ribs. The clothespins have to be taken apart and put back together again backwards. A heavy rubber band is wrapped around each clothespin to make it stronger.  Rosemary and Emily helped me retrofit all the clothespins!


Hide glue is used on the lining and also on the ribs where the lining will be glued. You have to work fast!


Emily was helping me by holding the form when I was brushing on the glue, and also with the actual clamping.




Using a damp rag, all the excess glue has to be wiped off so the clamps don't stick to the ribs or the mold, and so there is not excess glue everywhere.


Believe it or not, these clamps are so strong some of them took two hands to open them!


Here you can see me readjusting the spacing of the clamps so that there aren't any gaps, especially near the blocks.


This is what it looks like with all the clamps on it!


Here is a closeup of the lining going into the edges of the endblock.


Here is a closeup of the lining going into a corner block. Note how one side goes into the "tunnel," and the other side is just a wedge fit.


Here is the entire form with all the lining done and sanded level with the ribs. Next step is carving the back!

Making a Fiddle - Day 8

I used a chisel to trim down the ribs.  When done correctly, the seam at the corners becomes almost invisible!  I had to be very careful when chiseling the maple.  It is so easy to chip the ribs!  I ended up going at an angle from the top down -- and I didn't go all the way down to the board. I would flip it over and then go the other direction. Then I would work on the middle section, and finish it out with a rasp to get it perfectly level and square.


After trimming the ribs with the chisel, I used a rasp to smooth out and level the edge. It should be perfectly straight.


My sanding board is 16" x 24". It can be made from granite (which is pretty heavy, but flat), or it can be made from a board. I used 5-ply plywood. It took a good two hours to make this completely level! I used planes, scrapers and sandpaper to accomplish this.


I used a long, thick straight edge to check for high and low spots and warping. It has to be level everywhere: top, bottom, sides, and diagonally. After the board is level, I cut large pieces of sandpaper (from sanding belts) to fit the board. I used coarser grain on one side and finer grain on the other side. The sandpaper was attached to the board using spray adhesive.

You can see me using the sanding board in this picture. I am sanding the rib structure on my sanding board. It is important not to press down too hard or the ribs can break. Back and forth and circular motions across all parts of the board are important to keep the rib structure perfectly level. This has to be done on both sides of the rib structure.
Both sides look like this now!
Here is a closeup of two corners.


I still have a long ways to go, but it won't be long and I'll be rid of this mold and start work on the top and back.